Most of the time, modern fashion is oriented around youthful, slim models. However, many men have a fuller appearance, and with advanced age most men add a few pounds. The good news is that regardless of your build, you can certainly look dapper and elegant even if you have a little bit of meat on your bones. Many brands carry suits for big & tall guys but rarely do you see clothes for men who are portly and shorter. In today’s guide, we want to help heavier men of all heights.
The video and written guide have some overlap but both contain unique tips and information you won’t find in the other. You get the most out of this guide if you watch the video first and then read the text.
Suit Tips For Big, Chubby Men – Both Tall and Short
Maybe even more so than for other men, fit is of the utmost importance to men with a heavier build.
Why Are Off The Rack Suits So Bad For Bigger Men? The Pattern Is Scaled
The huge problem is that off the rack suits rarely provide a good fit for stockier men, leading to figure exaggeration rather than flattery. To understand why that’s the case you must look at the pattern that is used to make a suit.
- A suit pattern is scaled across sizes.
- When you increase the chest size, everything else gets bigger too: The armhole, the sleeve, the length, the shoulders etc.
- So when you have a bigger belly, your shoulder width doesn’t change, and your arms don’t get longer either. If the sleeve was the only issue, it could be shortened, but the length of the jacket determines the positioning of the pockets and the buttonholes – which can’t be repositioned – that’s why the fit of an off the rack suit for bigger men is usually so bad.
On top of that, these RTW suits often have a lot of shoulder padding, which makes the wearer look like an American football player rather than a well-dressed individual.
Pay Attention To The Shoulders
The correct shoulder width is of utmost importance — that means the jacket’s shoulder extends just slightly above your natural shoulder bone and not by an inch / 2 cm or more. Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, one should also avoid wearing garments with a shoulder that is so tight that you see wrinkles because it makes you look like a pressed sausage.
What Suits Should Bigger Men Buy? Customs Suits!
If you do not have extreme proportions an off the rack suit from places like Ralph Lauren may work for you.
If you are short and big, an off the rack suit will likely never fit you well, whereas there is a slim chance that big and tall guys can find a suit that fits pretty well with some alterations, but it really depends on the brand. Generally, a better option is to go with custom garments such as Made to Measure or if you can afford it, bespoke. To learn more about the differences and similarities of these two types, please take a look here. Also, bear in mind that not all custom suits are created equal and men with unusual proportions benefit from a tailor with an experienced eye.
The Cut of a Portly Suit
The jacket should preferably be single breasted with notched lapels. This silhouette will suit you much better because a double breasted jacket will make you look wider and it will inevitably gap in the front. Two or three buttons are probably ideal. Both skinny (7cm) and wide (14cm) lapels are too exxagerated. Try to find something classic, between 8-10cm / 3.5″, so they are proportional to your figure and your face.
Choose either side vents or no vents; a middle vent is for sporting jackets, and it will likely gap unfavorably, leaving your rear exposed.
Ideally, the trousers of a suit for heavier gentleman should be cut so they sits on the natural waist. The same is true for the buttoning point of the jacket, because the proper buttoning height sets the visual basis for your entire outfit. If it too high, your belly will peek out from underneath. If it is too low, you look a little bit like a Dachshund.
Belts are pretty much useless because they will not be able to keep the pants up. The same is true for side-adjusters, because your pants will inevitable slide down, which will cause the fabric to bunch up on top of your shoes. Instead, use suspenders. They allow for a little more room, so you can comfortably sit down and your trousers will always stay in place, avoiding the awkward need to hike them up after sitting. Moreover, I suggest you wear pleats because they provide more room for your legs, especially when you sit. They also allow your trousers to fall more naturally, which will look better.
One way to really create a slimmer look is to wear a vest. Not only is it more formal than a 2 piece suit, but it will also hide and smooth your middle section. Like the jacket, you should go with single breasted waistcoats only.
Colors & Patterns
Dark solids in navy and charcoal will certainly work well, just like with most other men. Overall, it is certainly a smart idea to dress more classically with white or light blue shirts and a simple tie, however you are not limited to these few colors. More so than for slimmer gents, it is important for you not to draw attention to areas you’d like to reduce with ostentatious colors and horizontal stripes.
You can wear patterns but do so in a subtle manner. Skip the wide chalk stripes and choose a subtle pin stripe instead. Also, a glencheck suit is OK, but choose a fabric with no or a subtle overplaid with a bigger pattern. This will make you look interesting and the larger scale harmonizes with your body type.
In a Nutshell: 10 Suit Tips For Big Men
- I. Pay attention to fit; avoid buying off the rack and go custom instead.
- II. Choose single breasted over double breasted suits because they make you look slimmer.
- III. Wear suspenders for trousers and skip the belt because it will be more comfortable for you, look better and the pants won’t slide down on you.
- IV. Go with pleated pants and side vents. Pleats give you extra room in the legs, especially when you sit, and middle vents gap a lot, which is why side vents are best.
- V. Wear solid colors or subtle patterns. Focus on fit, and don’t be too flashy. Wide stripes make you look even bigger, and bold windowpanes can do the same.
- VI. Try a wearing a vest. It makes you look more dapper instantly, and the dark color slims you down visually.
- VII. Wear medium sized tie knots and skip cutaway shirts. Your outfit must be balanced and a big tie knot on a big guy is just over the top. The same is true with shirt collars. A super wide shirt collar makes your face look extra wide, but you want to appear slimmer, hence a classic collar is best.
- VIII. The buttoning point and your trousers should be close to your natural waist. That is usually around the belly button or above. Most suits for big men have a buttoning point that is too low and hence it makes them look like they have very short legs, which is unflattering.
- IX. Look for a jacket with a small armhole. It sounds counter intuitive but a smaller armhole makes you more comfortable because you can move in them with less restriction, whereas big armholes cause your shirt and jacket to move with you, making you uncomfortable.
- X. Go for breathable fabrics that are heavier. You want heavier fabrics because they drape better over your body and make you look better, and you want an open weave so you can feel the airflow — because a sweaty big man is not an attractive man.
Shirts & Ties
A nice dress shirt and tie complete the look of every elegant men’s outfit and of course that’s also the case if you are a big fellow, yet you have to deal with a few specific issues.
The Shirt Collar Must Fit Snuggly Against Your Neck
Ideally, a man’s dress shirt collar should fit tightly around his neck. The problem with off-the-rack shirts is once again the evenly scaled proportions. If you have a particularly strong neck, the rest of the shirt feels like a tent, whereas someone with a spare tire and a slimmer neck will have a collar that is way too big. Hence, pay attention to the fit of your shirt collar. Fortunately, made-t0-measure shirts can be found quite inexpensively today, and you can get a much-improved fit compared to RTW. Of course, bespoke is the best, but also the most expensive option.
Go With Classic Collars, Avoid Extremes
Just like with all clothing, a dress shirt is meant to flatter you. Therefore bigger guys want to look a bit slimmer, and not bigger. Therefore, shy away from wide cutaway collars because they only accentuate the width of your face. Also, stay clear of tiny modern collars because they make your head look bigger in proportion.
Instead, chose a classic turn-down collar that is average in size or just a bit above average. That will look the part without being flashy.
Opt For 3.5″ / 9 cm ties and medium tie knots
A tie is merely decorative, but it order for it to make portly guys look good, you have to pay attention to a few details.
- Choose a medium sized tie knot; if it is as little as Prince Charles’, it will disappear next to your head and make your face look bigger. On the other hand, if you go with a double Windsor, you will accentuate likewise fullness of your face. A medium size knot is proportional to your appearance and hence the best choice for you. Click here to learn how to tie knots that flatter you.
- Your tie should be about the same width as your lapels. For 90% of big men a 3.5″ / 9 cm wide tie is the perfect tie length and it will help you to look dapper. Avoid slim ties because they make you look bigger.
- One aspect most heavy men don’t think about is tie length, but it is crucial. If you have a belly, your tie has to cover more distance and has to be longer than ties for slim men of the same height. For that reason, I designed ties in 3 different sizes, and for portly men regular length or long (both in 3.5 cm will likely be ideal.) If you are very short and portly, you may have to chose a slightly slimmer tie, but then you may also have to narrow your lapel.
Stockier Men in Elegant Suits
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is very tall and heavy, but his Berlin bespoke tailor Volkmar Arnulf understood the need to tailor suits for him that made him look respectable, authoritative and statesmanlike.
Just like with the larger patterns, it may be a good idea to opt for slightly larger flaps and buttons in order to keep your look proportional and flattering. The same is true for the distance between the buttons. If they are too close together, your lapel is too long, and most people will think something is off even though they can’t point their finger on it. For a big guy, you want slightly larger distances between your buttons, especially if you are tall. However, this is something you will get if you visit a bespoke tailor.
Photo Tips For Big Men
We all get our picture taken at times, but nobody looks good with a double chin. So, if you pose for a photograph make sure to stand slightly sideways and it will slim you down in the picture. Also try to put your chin forward and down because it will elongate your neck and make you look dapper.
In case you have found something that we did not list here, please let us know and we will be happy to add it to the guide.